Saturday, August 9, 2014

Two reviews in one: Rossetti and Victorian and deviant sex -- seems appropriate!

Poor Splendid Wings The Rossettis and their Circle by Frances Winwar
1933, Little Brown and Company

I bought this on a whim because I thought it would be an interesting take on The Rossettis.  Well, not so much about them or him as a chapter by chapter mini-biography on EVERY Pre-Raphaelite painter and artist to have ever met! Seriously, it begins with one of my favorite's Millais before Effie and after!  Swinburne gets a chapter focus, The Rossetti Family get a few chapters which is interesting reading but Burne-Jones receives some mentions artistically mainly as being enamored by and with Rossetti himself. He is made to look like  a soppy fangirl following DGR around London like a lost puppy and maybe he was. However, by 1933, I believe the focus should have been of an artistic one instead!  

Rossetti's paintings are covered thematically by chapter including summarisations on his poetry which is fascinating reading but this is a dated novel of types that in present day can only be read more as fun fiction than anything else. If you are an ardent scholar or fan of the  PRB, do not look for authenticity but mythology instead and you will not be disappointed. 

There is a wonderful illustration section including a sketch of John Ruskin's favorite 'Rose La Touche.' The chapter dedication to John Ruskin is an interesting read as well dealing more with his 'yearnings' toward the young girls and nature with anecdotes of his artistic friendships. It just made me chuckle really. To concentrate on his religious upbringing and ideology with romantic yearnings is typical of the stigma out there about him.
 
I found the chapter focus interesting. I mean, Watts, Holman-Hunt, Madox Brown, Rossetti and family, Rossetti and Lizzie, Jane Morris get mentioned in subject matter really. Where were Ned and Topsy? No chapters dedicated to William Morris or Sir Edward Burne-Jones except in passing! Horrifying really but within context of the novel, I would love to know why the author left out two of the greats of the Pre-Raphaelite art movement?
Overall, funny and sad at the same time but an edition I would add to your collection anyway!

Now to the talk of deviant Victorian Sex...Well, I hate to disappoint you but another review mainly about sex during the 19th century.
I thought this would be a read that would make me chuckle and laugh throughout which it did. However, have we come a long way baby!! Historically, it is interesting reading about the nature of how sex changed from era to era. The focus here is on married couples and sex during marriage when it was for procreation and not purely for hedonistic pleasure...sorry swingers or bohemians you'll have to get together in secret. Here within these pages, author Fern Riddell writes scientifically and medically about anatomy and the history of intercourse...BORING!!! The author made a statement during the chapter on MENSTRUATION that almost made me throw the book across the room in anger but I didn't! She actually stated that 'menstruation was very wonderful'! I checked to see if the author was indeed a man because only a man would say this! After a three paragraph description on puberty in young girls and the shedding of the womb, I could see this author and I were not going to get along. 

Anyway, moving steadily on, there are some wonderful 19th century illustrations and humorous reference chapters giving advice to the single and married girl. For instance, how to attract a man, how to keep herself 'clean' until she finds her husband and for the married woman well the chapters focus on sex and child rearing to how husbands can keep their wives from becoming 'hysterical'. The focus shifts to 'instrumentation women should use to avoid becoming nervous, uptight or suffering from HYSTERIA...what was it with the Victorian era and hysterical women? This phenomanon where crazed overemotional women ran rampant around the streets being out of control! Really, it was just an excuse for men to have ownership rights over women...don't get me started.  Some interesting examples of the history of the dildo, the vibrator and the condom with pictures well sketches really!

So, if you want a look back into the history of sex, fornication, and instruments, than look no further than The Victorian Guide to Sex!  I'm really surprised there were no mentions of Ruskin and or DGR himself!!  Simeon Solomon and Swinburne for that matter!! 

How far have we come when it comes to sex? Anyone remember when this video hit MTV back in 1991...SORRY MOM ;)
 

7 comments:

Pamela Britley said...

I really want to read the Rossetti book. It sounds like fun. Great reviews!

Francine Weberly said...

Wonderful reviews. I want to read both of them!

Kimberly Eve said...

Hi Pamela and Francine,
I'm so glad you both enjoyed my reviews. Thanks so much for leaving comments and stopping by! I hope you enjoy the books :)

Kevin Marsh said...

Hysterical women eh? Sounds like a mans unjustified method to keep a women 'in her place' in times of old. The book sounds hilariously hysterical itself. :-)
Thank you for sharing your fine discovery.

All the best.

Kimberly Eve said...

Hi Kevin,
Yes, it was all about control and dominance over women when it came to the stigma of hysteria!
So glad you stopped by :)

WoofWoof said...

The Rossetti book does sound interesting especially as in 1933 there were still people around who rembered the era. The other book, just to clarify, it's a recent book about Victorian attitudes, isn't it, not a genuine book of the time; that would be interesting (no doubt it would be high on cautionary tales and low on useful information)m That makes me think of that scene in "The Remains of the Day" when the butler is asked to explain the birds and the bees to the Lord's nephew!

Kimberly Eve said...

Hi WoofWoof,
Yes about the Rossetti book and good point about 1933 still having people around who remember the era. Yes, the Victorian attitude book was published in this era. I love that scene from Remains of the Day!

Thank you and Farewell

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